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The Courage of Curiosity: Advancing Racial Healing in Healthcare and Beyond

The award-winning movie, Hidden Figures, generated tremendous pride in me. I became an instant fan of the African American NASA female mathematicians portrayed by the talented actors in that great historical film. One of the main characters portrayed in the movie is 101-year-old Katherine Johnson (played by Golden Globe-winning actress Taraji P. Henson). She stated in an interview, “If you lose your curiosity, you stop learning.”

 That powerful quote sticks with me when I think about America’s responsibility for racial healing.  Our collective curiosity is greatly needed before we can move seriously in the direction of sustainable progress. We must dig deep before we can heal.  We must become curious before we can transform our society into forward-thinking thought leaders. This is particularly essential in healthcare where cultural competency is paramount.

 Moving Away from the Microwave Age

Part of our collective homework assignment as Americans should be understanding the importance of history and how it affects us today. Too often we are entranced by the excitement of technology, breaking news events, and our personal fascination with consumer consumption.  Our “microwave mentality” minimizes the past and concentrates on the here and now. That mentality yields a collective disdain for anything connected to the past. 

 Too often I’ll hear, “Why do we have to talk about the Civil Rights era, busing or racial discrimination? That was over 50 years ago, and things are different now.” Or other comments include, “I am only a second-generation American.  My roots are in Europe, and my ancestors weren’t southern slave owners.  Why can’t we just move on??”  Those comments pique my curiosity and compel me to want our discussions about race and gender in American to include meaningful conversations about influencers, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Henriette Lacks, Harriet Tubman, and Katherine Johnson.  It’s only when we publicly discuss the past that our learning quotient will rise for the better.

 Much like the Jewish community never wants us to forget the pains of the Holocaust, the black community doesn’t want America to forget how this country used slave labor to make it great. It will take the intentional commitment of all of us to acknowledge our past while we use the lessons of our history to help us all move forward.

 Learning from Our Past While We Dream for Tomorrow

We, as a nation, must embrace our history. And I mean all of our histories…not just the segments we cherry-pick for our own priorities.  It will all depend on our curiosity and how courageous we are in initiating the tough discussions about our past.  Only then can racial reconciliation garner any hope of permanently transforming us into a truly diverse and unified nation.  It will take work, and a continuing effort to be honest about the truth.  The stakes are high, but the rewards will be beneficial within healthcare and our country as a whole for years to come. 


Carole Copeland Thomas, MBA, CDMP, CITM

Carole Copeland Thomas is an award-winning keynote speaker, trainer, and consultant specializing in global diversity, cultural competency, multicultural and leadership issues. She has provided countless diversity services to the healthcare industry. For more information about her speaking services and community building initiatives, please contact Sandra St. Onge.

Kirsten SingletonComment